It's rare for a modern 2D platformer to be as memorable as Unravel. The incredible amount of imagination put in to craft every moment makes it quite a special experience, but does it live up to its undeniably unique premise?
Unravel tells the tale of a homemade toy (known as Yarny) who traverses unknown territory to gather a family's memories. It's an abstract premise for sure, but controlling the little guy reminded me of playing with Sackboy back in his prime. Everywhere Yarny goes, a trail of yarn coming from his body follows him. Therefore, you need to gather more yarn so he can remain alive. Doing so acts as a checkpoint which is very clever indeed. Along his surprisingly enormous journey, you'll come across loads of interesting puzzles that will test your imagination... and your patience. Either way you look at it, you can't deny the absolute wonder of it all. Tying yarn between points to make a trampoline or a ramp to push an object along act as the basics to much more complex scenarios that arise later in the journey. You'll find yourself operating heavy machinery, avoiding getting snatched up by a gang of pesky birds, and trying not to get blown away during a harsh winter storm. By the end of Yarny's quest, you'll think back fondly at the amazing sights and fantastic puzzles which will make you want to play it all over again.
One thing that sets Unravel apart from the hundreds of other 2D platformers is its breathtaking environments. Starting in a summer forest, traversing through a rainy construction site, and ending in a winter wasteland makes the journey feel all the more awe-inspiring. Every single frame looks photo-realistic. Even Yarny's animations give you a sense of his surroundings as you see him get scared, shiver in the cold, and look happy to be out in the sun. You'll also meet a handful of animals such as groundhogs, moose, fish, and the previously mentioned birds. As a Canadian from a small town, the wildlife felt right at home. To complement the onscreen magnificence, a subtle orchestral score provides layers of atmosphere. Overall, this is one masterfully presented game.
As I've said, this is one enormous adventure. There are only 11 stages but each one can easily take you well over 15 minutes to beat, especially if you don't use a guide. I say that because the puzzles can be daunting enough that using a guide is tempting. However, I only used one at a few points that had me stumped and managed to figure out the rest by myself. Anyway, it'll take you hours to work through the entire campaign which makes it worthwhile but there is also an impressive amount of collectables to find. Although every level only contains a handful of them, they're mostly found in well-hidden and hard to reach places so being able to gather all of them during your first attempt will be a rather difficult endeavor. In the end, there's enough content here to keep you playing for days.
If you're an impatient gamer then unfortunately you won't enjoy your time with Unravel. A lot of the puzzles require far too much patience as you try to think outside the box, explore your surroundings, and experiment with objects. That being said, if you're the kind of gamer who finds it rewarding to overcome such challenges then you'll delight in every moment of Yarny's adventure. Whichever camp you belong to, one issue that'll occasionally put you off is when unforeseen hazards unexpectedly end your life thus forcing you to try again with the knowledge of what's to come. I wish that they somehow warned you of incoming danger but sometimes a shaking screen just isn't enough. Being crushed by rocks in a landslide, struck by lightning, and kidnapped by birds not only made me sad for all the hardships that poor Yarny is subjected to, it was also irritating being forced to retry now that I was aware of what's to come.
Unravel is one of the best 2D platformers that I've ever had the pleasure to play. Even though some gamers may be turned off by its more complex puzzles, the core experience is such a memorable one filled with wonder and captivating gameplay that it's a must-buy for anyone who's even slightly intrigued by it. So, what are you waiting for? Yarny would love a new pal.
- + Highly imaginative premise allows for tons of incredibly satisfying puzzles
- + Gorgeous environments and soundtrack
- + Large campaign with rewarding collectables
- - Impatient gamers will find the more obtuse puzzles too frustrating to solve
- - Many unexpected hazards force you to play certain segments at least twice